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  • Herman Melville was an American novelist, writer of short stories, and poet from the American Renaissance period. The bulk of his writings was published between 1846 and 1857. Best known for his whaling novel Moby-Dick, he is also legendary for having been forgotten during the last thirty years of his life. Melville's writing is characteristic for its allusivity. "In Melville's manipulation of his reading", scholar Stanley T. Williams wrote, "was a transforming power comparable to Shakespeare's". Born in New York City, he was the third child of a merchant in French dry-goods, with Revolutionary War heroes for grandfathers. Not long after the death of his father in 1832, his schooling stopped abruptly. After having been a schoolteacher for a short time, he signed up for a merchant voyage to Liverpool in 1839. A year and a half into his first whaling voyage, in 1842 he jumped ship in the Marquesas Islands, where he lived among the natives for a month. His first book, Typee, became a huge best-seller, which called for a sequel, Omoo. The same year Melville married Elizabeth Knapp Shaw; their four children were all born between 1849 and 1855.

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  • Reappraisal of his work in the twentieth century has restored his reputation as one of the finest American writers.

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